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Monday 19 March 2018

Republican dissidents have at least four more booby-trap bombs

Deborah McAleese

Four more explosive devices similar to the one used in an attempt to murder Catholic PSNI Constable Peadar Heffron are believed to be in the possession of dissident republicans.

The booby-trap bomb used in Friday’s murder bid is thought to have come from a batch of around half-a-dozen devices constructed with the assistance of a former IRA explosives expert.

Police in the North believe another one of the devices may have been used in a bomb attack last year when a policeman’s girlfriend escaped serious injury after a device exploded under her car in east Belfast. Detectives have been investigating similarities between the two bomb attacks, both claimed by Oglaigh na hEireann.

“It is thought around half-a-dozen devices were constructed last year. Two are thought to have been used in these attacks. That means four are still out there,” a security source said.

DUP Policing Board member Jimmy Spratt said he wants to know what action is being taken by the PSNI to find the devices.

“There are still some of these types of devices floating about. I am very concerned by this and I will be wanting to hear what exactly is being proactively done to try and find them. This should be a matter of urgency,” he said.

Constable Heffron, who has been described by Chief Constable Matt Baggott as a hero, was last night still fighting for his life in hospital. He had been travelling from his Milltown Road home in Randalstown to Woodbourne PSNI station in west Belfast, where he was stationed, when the bomb exploded on Friday morning. Having first been taken to Antrim Area Hospital he was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital for emergency surgery.

It is understood the Chief Constable has visited Constable Heffron’s wife to offer his support.

The intensification of the dissident campaign coincides with the crisis at Stormont over the transfer of policing and justice powers.

The attempted murder of Constable Heffron will have been carried out by dissidents in a bid to further destabilise the peace process and try to dissuade Catholics from joining the PSNI.

Last year saw the highest number of people ever applying to join the PSNI. Dissidents will be hoping their campaign of terror will deter those considering applying.

One police officer said however: “I don’t think this will stop Catholics from joining the PSNI and it certainly does not deter us from doing our job.”

Belfast Telegraph

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